Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


problems.   The measure of his success may be best appreciated
by taking as an example his treatment of the years from about
eight to twelve.   This, he points out, is a unique period of human
life,   The brain has nearly acquired its adult size and weight:
physical activity is greater and more varied than either before
or after: the natural interests are never so independent of adult
influence.   While perception is acute, reason, morality, religion,
sympathy,love, and aesthetic enjoyment are but slightly developed.
Everything suggests the culmination of one stage of life, as if
it thus represented what was once, and for a very protracted
period, the age of maturity in some remote, perhaps pigmoid,
stage of human evolution, when in a warm climate the young
of our species shifted for themselves independently of further
parental aid.   All this confirms Rousseau's view that the pre-
pubescent years till twelve should be left to nature—if only a
proper environment could be provided.    The child revels in
savagery, and if its tribal, predatory, hunting, fishing, fighting,
roving, idle, playing proclivities could be indulged in the country
they could conceivably be so organized and directed as to be far
more truly humanistic and liberal than all that the best modern
school can provide*    Even under  existing  conditions,  these
nativistic instincts should be fed and formed;   The deep cravings
in the individual to revive the ancestral experiences and oc-
cupations of the race must be met in a vicarious way by tales of
the heroic virtues the child can appreciate, and these proxy
experiences should make up by variety and extent what they lack
in intensity.   Echoes only of the vaster, richer life of the remote
past of the race they must remain, but just these are the murmur-
ings of the only muse that can save from the omnipresent dangers
of precocity.   So, too, in our urbanized hot-house life, that tends
to ripen everything before its time, we must teach nature by
perpetually inciting the child to visit field, forest, hill, shore,
the water, the true homes of childhood in this wild, undomesti-
cated stage.   These two staples, stories and nature, learned by
the informal methods of the home and the environment, constitute
fundamental education.   But the manifold knowledges and skills
of our complex civilization make another education also necessary.
As early as eight—but not before—the child must be transplanted
to the schoolroottx and brought under influences to most of which
there can at first be but little inuer response.  There is certain to